1941 1st July 1942
Happily towards a common future

1941-latvian-wwii-ss-volunteer-propaganda-poster

When German troops arrived, Latvian men were actively encouraged to fight at Germany’s side against an oppressive, communist Red Army.  Every village displayed posters celebrating the arrival of a liberating German army but my father was not fooled.  During his sixty-six years, he had experienced degradation and inequality under the rule of German nobility as well as varying Russian authoritarians in equal portions.  Any non-Latvian administration was bad for the people of Latvia.

My mother, Anna, believed me too ill for the army, any army.  She assured me I was safe at home on the farm with them.

“The German army want tall, straight, strong men” she said.  “No German officer will want a 19 year old boy with a twisted, ulcerated leg.  No one will want you to go and fight.”

My left leg never fully recovered from that week I spent in my sick bed.  Even after almost three years, it stubbornly refused to straighten fully.

Not long after my eighteenth birthday on 7 January 1942, I was interviewed by the German military but dismissed as unfit for military service, just as mother had promised.  I was assigned to compulsory labour duties along with those of my neighbours also pronounced as either unfit or too old for military uniform.  Mother convinced me the same would happen again when I attended Ranka Guard House on 20 March 1943 for a follow up medical but she was wrong.  The draft doctor dismissed my impairment.  Apparently, Hitler likes a challenge.

Although I did not know it at the time of my assessment, the doctor had a set quota of Latvian men and boys to conscript into uniform.  I think that is why minor handicaps were over looked.  I have to wait and see if the army will be good for my leg; see if the marching exercises will straighten it out forever.